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Friends of Fakahatchee - Welcome!
Winding through the Florida Everglades is a narrow thread of forested swamp approximately 20 miles long and 3 to 5 miles wide called the Fakahatchee Strand. It is the main drainage slough of the southwestern Big Cypress Swamp.
This vast wilderness is a mosaic of royal palm stands, cypress domes, and grassy prairies dotted with wild bromeliads, native ferns, and orchids. The park’s wildlife includes a number of threatened and endangered species. The Florida panther, wood stork, Florida black bear, mangrove fox squirrel, and Everglades mink have all been seen within the preserve.
Although there is limited access to the preserve, visitors can see some areas by driving through a portion of the park on Janes Scenic Drive, an 11–mile–long unpaved, gravel road. At the Big Cypress Bend, on the north side of U.S. 41, about seven miles west of Route 29, visitors can walk along a 2,000–foot–long boardwalk to experience the beauty of a magnificent old growth cypress forest. For the truly adventurous, the park offers guided swamp walks once a month from November through February. Located west of Copeland, on State Road 29.
The Fakahatchee Strand has much to offer those with outdoor interests. Every season presents different opportunities for wildlife and plant viewing. See the Events Schedule for upcoming activities.
Friends of Fakahatchee - About Us
The Friends of Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve, Inc. was founded to help maintain and protect this natural legacy. The Friends organization is a Florida not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation that relies on membership fees and private donations to pursue activities on behalf of the Preserve.
As a Citizens Support Organization, the Friends work closely with the Division of Parks and Recreation in order to accomplish the following:
- provide interpretive materials used by Park staff when making presentations
- obtain scientific equipment to support research in the Strand
- distribute Preserve information to the general public and local community
- solicit support (financial and moral) for preservation of the Strand
As a member of the Friends, you will be able to join in numerous activities:
- swamp walks led by a ranger/naturalist
- canoe trips through mangrove tunnels
- special bird and butterfly counts
- wildlife watching opportunities
- tram surveys, other volunteer work
- membership cookouts
- members meetings and specialist committees (eg, Boardwalk, History)
The Friends of Fakahatchee Strand believe that the protection of this jewel of the Everglades Ecosystem is achievable through public awareness and participation.
Friends of Fakahatchee - About the Preserve
The Fakahatchee Strand is approximately 20 miles long and 3 to 5 miles wide. It is the main drainage slough of the southwestern Big Cypress Swamp; the largest and most unusual of the strands. The cypress & mixed hardwood swamp is a unique feature.
The natural values of the Fakahatchee are arguably greater than those of any other comparably-sized area in Florida. It contains the largest stand of royal palms and the largest concentration and variety of orchids in North America, as well as other species of plants that are extremely rare.
The wildlife of the Strand is equally rare. Endangered or threatened species include Florida Panther, Black Bear, Everglades Mink, Wood Stork and Bald Eagle. Click here for trails map. For more information, visit the Ranger Station on Janes Scenic Drive in Copeland or see the Florida State Parks website.
From I-75 (Alligator Alley) take Exit 80 and go south on SR-29 about 12 miles. Then turn west onto Janes’ Scenic Drive and follow it, bearing right, until you see the observation tower. The Park office is on the right.
Friends of Fakahatchee - About the Boardwalk
You are about to enter one of the best examples of a subtropical strand swamp in the United States. The 2500 acres comprising the Boardwalk are only a small part of the 80,000 plus acres of the Preserve, the largest unit in the Florida Park Service.
On the boardwalk you will see
- the world’s only swamp forest containing both old growth bald cypress trees and native royal palm trees. Many of the bald cypress are hundreds of years old.
- a variety of bromeliads (airplants) and ferns, along with picturesque strangler fig plants and sabal palms (state tree of Florida)
- an active bald eagle’s nest, continuously used since 1991
- a pond which is an active “alligator hole,” with adult and immature alligators, many species of wading birds, and occasional snakes and turtles.
- many species of birds including warblers, woodpeckers, flycatchers, gnatcatchers, owls, hawks and many others
Length of your walk - 1.2 miles roundtrip
- The trail leading to the Boardwalk is 865 feet long (approx 265 meters)
- The wooden Boardwalk is 3200 feet long (approx 975 meters)
- Rest benches are available 1700 feet (518 meters) and at 2300 feet (700 meters) from the parking lot.
- There is an observation platform at the end.
Friends of Fakahatchee - History
The Fakahatchee Strand is probably one of the best examples of subtropical, strand swamp in the United States. The Strand harbors one of the largest concentrations and diversity of native orchids in North America, and supports numerous rare and endangered animal species. It is also one of the core areas of the current range of the Florida Panther. The Fakahatchee Strand is linked hydrologically to the Everglades system and is particularly important to the estuarine ecosystem of the Ten Thousand Islands area.
In 1913, the Fakahatchee Strand was purchased by the Lee-Tidewater Cypress Company for $1.4 million, with the intent of logging the cypress. Major logging did not occur, however, until 1944 as a war-time measure. Major logging operations continued until the early 1950s. The lag time for commencing major logging operations may have been due to the real estate boom of the mid-1920s and the subsequent depression years. It has been reported that in 1922 an agent for Henry Ford obtained an option to purchase the Strand with the intention of giving it to the state as a park, but the offer did not materialize.
By 1948, the southern 10 miles of the Fakahatchee Strand had been logged when Dan Beard, the superintendent of Everglades National Park, inspected the Strand and recommended it for a National Monument. At the time, approximately one million board feet of cypress per week were being removed from the Strand. It was pointed out that the density of mammalian life found in the Strand was greater than that of the Everglades National Park, including black bear, Florida panther, mangrove fox, and a wide diversity of other wildlife. Beard also commented on the picturesque beauty of the area.
While funding and authority to acquire the area did not materialize in the late 1940s, another attempt was made in 1964, under urging of Mel Finn, a Miami attorney and conservationist. However, once again the effort to preserve the Strand failed. In 1966, the Lee-Tidewater Cypress Company sold the Strand to the Gulf-American Land Company, which later became G.A.C. Properties, Inc. (GAC). GAC purchased the property with the intention of marketing the land as a part of Golden Gate Estates. Much of the property was sold in 1 ¼-acre lots. During this period, three sections of the Strand were donated to Collier County for a park.
In 1972, the Florida legislature passed the Land Conservation Act (Chapter 259, F.S.), which had as its purpose the conservation and protection of environmentally unique and irreplaceable lands. Later that year, Florida voters approved a bond issue of $240 million which set in motion Florida’s first major environmental land acquisition program known as the Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) Program. The Program was administered through the Div. of Recreation and Parks of the Dept. of Natural Resources.
Negotiations with GAC began in 1972. GAC attempted to regain possession of lots it had sold and offered to sell its holdings to the State. Negotiations were temporarily halted when GAC was prosecuted for alleged dredge and fill violations at Cape Coral in Charlotte County. To resolve this litigation, GAC offered to pay for damages by trading land in the Fakahatchee Strand. Settlement of the litigation resulted in approximately 9,523 acres south of US Hwy 41 being acquired.
The first purchase of land creating Fakahatchee Strand State Park, made in June 1974, was the beginning of a continuous acquisition effort which is ongoing to this day. By 1978 approximately 44,000 acres had been acquired. As of January 1, 1999, the Preserve consisted of 69,896 acres. Of this, approximately 34,727 acres were acquired under the EEL Program. As that program came to an end, the acquisition effort was assumed by the Conservation and Recreation Lands (CARL) Program. Under the CARL Program, the project has been expanded to include lands between the older project and SR 29.
All this time, approximately 16,700 acres remains to be acquired. Since 1990, most lands have been acquired with Preservation 2000 funding. Hopefully, this noteworthy acquisition effort will continue with the use of these funds or successive funding until all reasonable efforts to complete the project have been exhausted.
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